Pelicans call out refs as officials admit pair of late mistakes

DALLAS -- The New Orleans Pelicans' long day ended in turbulent fashion on Thursday night.

After starting the day in Denver, flying midday to Dallas for a game and falling behind by as many as 31 points against the Dallas Mavericks, the Pelicans still found themselves with a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds.

Unfortunately for the Pelicans, the calls didn't go their way.

"The players should've decided the game and they didn't," New Orleans forward Larry Nance Jr. said after the 111-106 loss.

A furious comeback led to the Mavericks inbounding the ball with 6.6 seconds remaining. Dallas' Josh Green was on the sideline nearest the Pelicans' bench, with 6-foot-8 Brandon Ingram and his 7-foot-3 wingspan guarding the ball.

As Green went to make the inbounds pass, Ingram jumped up and made contact with the ball using his left hand. Nance corralled the ball, but Brent Barnaky, the official nearest the inbounds play, blew the whistle and said Ingram stepped out of bounds. Also, while Nance had the ball, the clock ran down from 4.9 seconds to 3.4 seconds.

Officials let the Mavericks inbound the ball again, and this time it was successful. Spencer Dinwiddie knocked down a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds left to give Dallas the five-point victory.

Following the game, officials admitted fault on both the call and the clock.

"After postgame media review, Ingram was not out of bounds while making contact with the ball," the pool report stated.

On the clock issue, the report stated: "The game clock continued to run after being whistled for out of bounds."

"So there were two wrongs done," Nance said. "The clock was wrong and the call was wrong. ... I just hope we get the same calls at home. That'd be lovely."

Nance later quote-tweeted a video of the play, writing, "This play will weigh heavily and cause sleepless nights," referencing a tweet from the National Basketball Referees Association on its official Twitter account regarding the missed call on LeBron James from the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics game last week.

Both CJ McCollum and Nance told officials that they had possession of the ball so if it was ruled an inadvertent whistle, the Pelicans should have possession. Trey Murphy III asked officials why extra time was running off the clock.

Pelicans coach Willie Green said the team got no explanation on either front, aside from being told Ingram was out of bounds.

"They missed the call," McCollum said. "They said he deflected the ball while he was standing out of bounds. And I said, 'How is that possible if he jumped?' Either he was over the line or he wasn't over the line, he didn't land and hit the ball. He hit the ball while he was in the air. [The official] said from his view he was out of bounds.

"He deflected the ball, and we had the ball and possession. I had a great look [at a shot], you know what I'm saying? It's a make-or-miss league. We shouldn't have been down 30 but that play definitely impacted the end of the game."

Prior to the 2021-22 season, the NBA changed the rules that allowed the officials to initiate a replay review of an out-of-bounds call in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and last two minutes of overtime.

The Pelicans could have called timeout to review the call with a coach's challenge, but they had used their coach's challenge with 7:12 left in the third quarter to get a foul call on Ingram overturned. It would have been his fourth foul at the time, and the challenge was successful.

On that play, Mavericks star Luka Doncic went up for a shot, and Ingram got the ball on the block. However, Doncic took a nasty fall, injuring his heel. He stayed in the game after the challenge but immediately looked to the bench when he went back on defense, checked out and headed to the locker room. At the time Doncic checked out, the Mavericks were up 84-57.

When speaking to reporters after the game, Ingram had not watched the video of the end-of-game play but said his teammates and coaches told him he was in bounds.

"I thought I made a good deflection, and I thought I was in bounds when I caught the ball and threw it in but, referee saw something different," Ingram said. "I can't go back."

Typically, teams fly into cities the day before a game -- or very late at night or early in the morning in the case of a back-to-back -- but icy conditions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area made getting there from Denver difficult on Wednesday.

The Pelicans had several options -- including flying back to New Orleans and flying to Dallas from there on Thursday morning, or flying to Oklahoma City on Wednesday and bussing down to Dallas on Wednesday night -- but they opted to stay in Denver, practice there and fly on Thursday.

The team landed in Dallas at 12:41 p.m. local time and made it to the hotel around 2 p.m. Some players spent just two hours at the hotel before heading to the arena for the game.

Any sluggishness showed as New Orleans struggled mightily in the first half, trailing 70-43 at the break.

"Not an ideal day, not an ideal situation, but I don't like to make excuses," McCollum said. "I thought we came out flat, we came out sluggish in the first half and we paid the price to try to fight back. But, it was definitely a tough day. Tough travel day so routine wasn't what it normally was. Treatment, schedule, all that stuff. And you know, they, I think they were here for a few days resting. So I think that showed them the first 24 minutes."

The loss was the Pelicans' 10th in a row and dropped the team to 26-27 on the season. The team was on top of the Western Conference for a short time in December but now has lost 15 of its past 18 and sits in the No. 10 spot in the standings.

The Pelicans were 3-16 at one point last season but never had a 10-game losing streak. They pulled themselves out of that hole to make the play-in tournament and eventually earn the No. 8 seed. After a promising start this season, they hoped to avoid having to be in the play-in tournament, but injuries have derailed that.

Ingram missed two months with a toe contusion, and Zion Williamson hasn't played since Jan. 2 because of a hamstring injury. Williamson's next evaluation is expected next week, although he has started jogging and doing light sprint work.

There's hope that once Williamson is back and Ingram again rounds into form -- he had 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in his best game since returning from injury on Thursday -- that the wins will return. Until then, the team can look back on last year's experience to gain hope for turning things around.

"I say it all the time that not only in sports, but in life, when you go through adversity, you go through tough times like we are now in the basketball world, you evaluate your life," Green said. "Many people go through adversity. They go through tough times. What do you do during those times? Do you do something drastic and change everything you're doing or do you try to stay the course, make a few tweaks and adjustments, and those are the things that we'll do."

Still, for the team, Thursday's loss carries an extra sting as they head back home to face the Lakers on Saturday.

"You would like to have a chance to make or miss a shot down the stretch, but we dug ourselves in the tough hole, climbed out of it, fought back and then came up short," McCollum said. "Now we gotta go back to the drawing board and get some rest and recoup and try to get a win at home."